Fifth Australian Super 14 side all but assured
By Iain Payten
March 06, 2009 12:00am
GOSFORD, Newcastle or Western Sydney could be the home of a new Super rugby franchise by the end of the year after SANZAR all but assured Australia an extra team in an expanded Super 15.
Tense talks in Dubai yesterday between the bosses of Australian, New Zealand and South African rugby finally yielded an agreement to press ahead with expanding the Super 14 into a 15-team, 22-week competition from 2011.
After "robust" discussions lasting about seven hours, SANZAR rubber-stamped a competition consisting of three five-team conferences - with the new side to be based in an Australian conference.
Speaking from Dubai, ARU boss John O'Neill said SANZAR would invite expressions of interests worldwide but flagged a potential second team in NSW or Queensland, or a franchise in Victoria.
"From the ARU's perspective, we said it could be Melbourne, Western Sydney, Gosford, Newcastle, or the Gold Coast," O'Neill said. "I make no secret that I'd like to see a fair amount of competitive tension, and have as many expressions of interest from Australia as possible."
A Western Sydney bid would be based at Parramatta Stadium.
However, O'Neill also admires Bluetongue Stadium and EnergyAustralia Stadium in Newcastle as potential homes for a Super 15 side.
A Japanese, Pacific Islands or a sixth Kiwi franchise are slim possibilities. Already South Africa have indicated they will nominate an Eastern Cape side as the extra team.
"We're more than happy for people to express an interest but you'd have to think about time zones and logistical arrangements," O'Neill said. "It doesn't really make sense for an Eastern Cape team to be in the Australian conference."
SANZAR will present their competition model to broadcasters on June 30. A Super 15 would consist of a regular round of games, followed by a half-round of local derbies and then a six-team finals series. O'Neill said the broadcasters could play a role in awarding the 15th licence.
The ARU will keep a close eye on formation of a new team following "the gay abandon" with which the Western Force recruited their players, he added.
O'Neill suggested a "hybrid" side of Australian, Pacific Islanders and the odd NRL recruit could be recruited to field the 35 top players.
Argentina also moved a step closer to joining the Tri-Nations in 2012 with a favourable IRB report.
http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/s ... 23,00.html
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Where should the new team be based? Melbourne, Western Sydney, Gosford, Newcastle or the Gold Coast? Personally, I'd go for Melbourne with it's new rectangular stadium already under construction.
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